FIRST I want to welcome you here and tell you how delighted I am that I can be with you. I want to thank each of you for your generosity. I have thought for some time that it was about time someone threw a benefit for Dean Rusk. This is one of the loveliest rooms to throw it in in all of Washington, even though the windows are barred.
When Dean Rusk first took his job as Secretary of State, I am told that he made one request. He wanted a room with a good view, so he was put up here on the seventh and eighth floors.
And he asked for one more thing. He wanted to have the windows sealed. "Why?" he was asked. "Simple," he said, "it is too far to jump and too high for the pickets to climb."
But Dean forgot all about the birds. They tell me they flock to his windowsill every single day. As everybody knows in this country, and most other countries, the Secretary of State is a very wonderfully kind, genre, understanding, and generous man. Every morning Mrs. Rusk gives him a little bag of bread crumbs to bring down to the office with him so he can feed these native birds through the day. The sparrows and the starlings seem very grateful and appreciative, but as you must have observed, there is just no pleasing the appetites of these doves and hawks. [Laughter]
Someone told me that there were some pickets outside while you were registering. I am getting to be an expert these days on pickets' signs myself. But I think there must have been a switch in some of those that were used yesterday. The way it was reported to me, one read "Unleash Rostow."
You may have noticed that a great deal of care went into the preparation for your briefings. One reason is that business is entitled to very great respect in this country of ours. Outside of government, it is really the only place left where a man can find a job. You may know that there are at least a few people who are out job hunting these days.
A publisher of a children's book on penguins recently sent copies to a group of youngsters to get their opinions. And one young lady replied: "This is a good book on penguins--but it told me more about penguins than I wish to know."
After looking around at some of these briefers, I am afraid that you have heard a lot more about foreign policy in your briefings than you would wish to know.
The threads of foreign policy extend throughout the fabric of our national life. You cannot find the significance of any one thread without seeing its relationship to the whole.
It is not always easy to keep that in mind in the echo of gunfire.
Today, as we meet here, America's eyes are concentrated on Vietnam. The minds of our people are centered on the hills and the rice paddies where our men are out there fighting.
Our presence in Vietnam is in keeping with a foreign policy which has guided this Nation for more than 20 years. Four Presidents, 11 Congresses, and the most thoughtful men of our generation have endorsed that policy and have built that policy from the ground up.
For two decades, we have made it clear that we will use American strength to block aggression when our security is threatened, and when--as in Vietnam--the victims of aggression ask for our help and are prepared to struggle for their own independence and for their own freedom.
Our strength, and America's commitment to use that strength, has served as a shield. Behind this shield, threatened nations have been able to get on with the real work of peace. They have been busy building stable societies and relieving the bitter misery of their people. Where we have been able to-where our assistance has been wanted-where it has been properly matched by self-help--we have used our wealth to help them and help feed them. For we have learned, we have learned this: Violence breeds in poverty, disease, hunger, and ignorance.
Our purpose is not to breed violence, but to build peace.
The test of our policy is whether the rime we have bought has been used to the end that we are building peace.
The evidence of 20 years, I think, suggests that we are meeting that test.
Western Europe's recovery from the ruins of war seems like ancient history to some of you here tonight. But it was only yesterday. Many thought it could not happen in our lifetime. But it did happen--with our help, and it happened behind our shield of protection, and behind our sacrifice of lives and dollars.
Twenty years ago it was dear to the leaders of Western Europe that our shield there was necessary to their future.
Today it is equally clear to Asian leaders that our presence in Vietnam is vital, is necessary, is a must to Asia's tomorrow.
There has been much talk in the United States about the so-called "domino theory"the theory that if South Vietnam should fall, its neighbors would topple one after another. And as I pointed out in a speech I recently made in San Antonio, the threat of Communist domination is not a matter of theory for Asians. Communist domination for Asians is a matter of life and death.
But it is now clear, I think, to all Asians that South Vietnam is not going to fall. In every capital of Free Asia that fact has already registered, and registered well. It is being acted upon. What is happening in Asia might really be called the "domino theory in reverse." We do not need to speculate about the results. We know what has happened since we made our stand clear in Vietnam.
Just a few years ago, Southeast Asia was only a geographic phrase. Its separate states had no sense of identity with each other.
All of those states were overwhelmed by the size of their own domestic problems.
Moreover--and most important--they were hypnotized by the menace of China.
Out of this fear--and out of this sense of isolation--this awareness of desperate problems-grew something ominous. It was a paralysis of the will to progress. There was a hopeless feeling among all Asians that they were the victims, rather than the forgers, of their own destiny.
Now, in the span of a few years, all of that, I am glad to say, has changed and the major agent of that change has been America's firmness in Asia.
Behind the shield of our commitment there, hope has quickened in the nations of Asia.
They are banded together in regional institutions to attack common problems:
--to pool their information about how to get more from their land;
--to explore new ways to bring education to their villages;
--to join in the fight against disease;
--to improve their trade with each other, build new industries, and pull together for the economic development of the entire area.
I don't want to generate any false optimism here tonight. I do not want to suggest that all the problems of these nations will be solved soon or will be solved easily.
But I do suggest that, when men weigh the pros and cons of our commitment in Vietnam, they consider this:
The war in Asia is not merely saving South Vietnam from aggression. It is also giving Asia a chance to organize a regional life of progress, cooperation, and stability.
This is no new objective. Our Government supported the Southeast Asia Treaty in 1954 precisely because the stability of that part of the world was judged by the President and the Secretary of State in 1954 and the United States Senate by a vote of 82 to 1 in 1955 to be vital to the security of you and your boys and your girls and your families--you Americans.
The passage of time, I think, has proved that the President, the Secretary, and the Senate's judgment was absolutely correct. I think it is vital to our security.
Now, there are a lot of people who do not think so. There are a lot of people who are looking for the fire escape and the easy way out. They were doing that in Mussolini's time. They were doing that in Hitler's time. They did not think that this was important to the security of the United States until it was almost too late.
We waited a long time here, but better late than never, and now, behind America's protective shield, progress is in motion in Asia where there was none just a few years ago.
This development is as significant for the peace of the whole world as the activities in Europe that I discussed, and the rebirth of Europe after World War II that all of us participated in. None of us should ever forget that more than half of all human beings in the world live in Asia, and there can be no peace in the world when half of the human beings live in an unstable condition.
On the periphery of the Orient, a new Asia is now building. I saw it. I went there last year. I visited their countries and their peoples.
As this new Asia becomes a firm reality, there is a decent hope that the people on the mainland will also turn their minds to the challenge of economic and social development. There is a decent hope that they will turn to the task of living in dignity and mutual respect with their neighbors.
But our foreign policy is concerned not merely with Asia; American foreign policy is concerned with all the world. And we have acted on that judgment. I want to review very briefly, because you don't hear anything but the complaints that sometimes seem to overshadow the progress we make. The constructive decisions, the march we make forward, doesn't make very interesting reading or reporting.
--We achieved a trilateral agreement with Germany and Great Britain which stabilized our troop levels in Germany and dealt with the balance of payments problems caused by their location.
--We just successfully concluded the negotiation of the Kennedy Round bringing great advantages to the whole world, and a few weeks before it looked rather grim.
--We have just achieved a preliminary monetary accord in London which led to the agreement at Rio with all the members of the International Monetary Fund--laying the basis for a new international reserve currency.
--In the face of the devaluation of the pound, we worked with the industrial nations of the free world. Our men have been crossing back over the Atlantic on weekends to keep other exchange rates stable and the international system strong.
--We are working with the Soviet Union, our NATO partners, and the other nations of the world to achieve a nonproliferation treaty--which, when complete, will give all countries the opportunity to benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear technology while reducing the risks of nuclear war.
--In this past week we have moved toward a common position with the industrialized countries of the world to establish special trading benefits which will accelerate progress among the developing nations of the world.
--We have concluded this year two treaties with the Soviet Union, the consular treaty and the space treaty. They have been ratified by the United States Senate.
These achievements rarely make headlines and interest the average citizen. But they are real achievements and real accomplishments, and a failure in any one would make a lot of noise. They represent, we think, the acceptance of joint responsibilities between enlightened leaders. And we are prepared to build upon them.
In the months ahead, I would like to see us work with the institutions of the European communities and with other industrialized nations of the world:
--to make our policies of assistance to the developing nations more effective.
If we have demonstrated that we can work on all of these things that I have outlined, we ought to demonstrate that we can work together in making policies of assistance to developing nations. We should work together to strengthen further the world monetary situation.
--to consider together the problems and possibilities of the flow of capital and technology back and forth among us;
--and finally, to examine together and exchange experiences on the problems we all share, the problems of the urban life, the problems of the modern-lay cities that have grown every day. And they have reached a point now where they must be dealt with quickly and effectively.
Now, what we have achieved in this year goes beyond these great initiatives:
--After a year's careful preparation, we had the summit conference at Punta del Este at which the nations of Latin America committed themselves to go forward toward economic integration--with America's support.
--We have moved from a dangerous war in the Middle East to an agreed resolution within which a representative of the United Nations will be seeking a stable peace for that troubled region in the months ahead. I shudder to think what could have happened if we had not taken that step and what might have happened if we had not been successful in bringing about a cease-fire in the Middle East just a few months ago.
--We have worked with others to avoid massive bloodshed in the Congo. To the concerned Senators I see tonight, the last of the three American C-130 transport planes will leave the Congo at the end of this week. We have thrown our support behind the regional and subregional efforts of the Africans to build a modern life through cooperation--a process that is quietly moving forward in east Africa and greatly advanced by the current conference at Dakar in west Africa.
Tomorrow, the Secretary early in the morning and the Vice President and I a little later in the day, will be meeting with a distinguished American who has been trying to leave public service now for about 7 years. But he has had to come back when we have demonstrations. He has had to go to Detroit to help when we have problems there. He has been in Cyprus and Greece and Turkey trying to solve that matter--Mr. Cyrus Vance.
And he is returning after a successful effort in which Greece and Turkey and Cyprus drew back from the brink of war and opened the way to a major effort to settle the Cyprus problem.
This has been a year of rather remarkable constructive achievements for the American people and for the world community, despite the struggle in Vietnam.
And if the generations which come after us live at peace at all, it is going to be because this generation held the shield and supplied the courage and the fortitude and determination by which peace was built, and because we stubbornly labored to build that peace instead of finding a cheap, dishonorable way out of it.
To those of you who have come here to provide this benefit for Dean Rusk, this rather unusual event, I want to say to you that we have 41 alliances around the world where the commitment and the signature and the agreement of the United States is present-where your President and your Senate and your leadership have made commitments for this Nation.
Now, Dean Rusk didn't make them and I didn't make them. We just have to keep them. If you will keep the faith, we will keep the commitments.